Archive for the ‘PolymerClay’ Category

Throwback Thursday—Eva’s Button Cloth

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

We played with polymer clay a lot in the late 1990s. It was a great way to pass the time during the frequent rainy, gloomy days in Sheffield.

The compelling thing about polymer clay is that after you model a project, you cure it in the oven at a fairly low temperature to make it permanent. The colors stay true, it stays the same size. You get what you make. I wish every kid (and lots of adults) could experience the joy of it.

During these times, I designed polymer clay projects for magazine articles and for my first book. I made lots of buttons, so four or five-year-old Eva did, too. She used the different tools and cutters, and sometimes repurposed my millefiori off-cuts. I made this cloth to showcase her buttons, and it hung on her wall for years.

Two things stand out in my memory of those days. As we worked one day, Eva asked, “Mama, what if I become better at this than you are?”

And the other was when she finished the large button in this detail picture. It has nine or ten sew-through holes. “Mama, it’s going to take you a long time to sew on this button, because it has so many holes.”

Four Flowers a Day

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Crocheted Firewheel Wall Hanging

The Firewheel Meadows quilt is due at the 2014 Threads of Texas Quilt Show on October 1. So far, I’m making steady progress toward the finish line by appliqueing four flowers a day onto the quilt. See the flowers at the left of the picture, with the petals curling up slightly? Those are the ones I sewed today.

At four a day, I’ll finish with the flowers on September 16, which gives me plenty of time to do more embellishment, sew on the label, and finish the hanging sleeve. AND finish two other projects by the end of September!

Oh, but some days it’s difficult to sit down and sew four flowers. I’d rather be doing something else, like reading stuff on the internet or sneaking a game of 2048 on my daughter’s iPad.

The process is character-building. Yes, that’s what it is.

Firewheels and Buttons

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Oh, those challenging firewheel centers! The dark, bloomed-out flowerets are around the outside of the center, while the yellow, currently-blooming flowerets are toward the center of the center. Clearly this calls for homemade buttons!

Making polymer clay buttons

Luckily, I had company in this button-making adventure. Ella and I gathered materials and got to work. She researched polymer techniques in the classic text Polymer Clay for Everyone, by her mom. Woo hoo!

Ella made a jellyroll cane with turquoise and pearl, and wrapped it in purple. Slicing the cane is the most exciting part! We both love how it reveals the design inside the cane.

“What are you going to do with those pretty buttons, Ella?”

“I’m going to put them in the button jar until I find a good project to use them for,” she said.

Like mother, like daughter!

Ella's handmade jellyroll button slices

My buttons were a little different. I made a Skinner Blend, a very clever technique which shades two or more colors into each other. You start with two colors of clay fitted together diagonally like this:

Skinner blend buttons

*Fold the piece in half as shown in the picture, and run it through the pasta machine.*

Skinner blend buttons

Repeat between *s until the blend is even.

Skinner blend buttons

Skinner blend buttons

Skinner blend buttons

I rolled the resulting blend starting at the yellow end. This made a cane of clay that shaded from yellow on the inside to burgundy on the outside. Thinking the buttons needed an even darker border, I blended some burgundy with black and wrapped it around the cane.

Handmade buttons for crocheted Firewheel, Indian Blanket, Gaillardia flowers

The button centers look good! The best part—I cut buttons for the large flowers, then reduced the cane and cut button slices for the medium-sized flowers, then reduced it some more and cut button slices for the small flowers!

Ella and I used the scraps to make miracle beads and scrappy buttons.

“What are you going to do with all those scrappy buttons, Mom?”

“I’m going to put them in the button jar until I find a good project to use them for,” I said.

Like daughter, like mother!

Sonja Knows What to Do With Buttons!

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Felt penny wreath wall hanging

What in the world can a person do with bunches of buttons?

My friend Sonja, who owns the “Two Olde Yoyos” shop on Etsy, knows! She made this wreath wall hanging in the penny-rug style, then added hand-made polymer clay buttons (by me!).

It is so pretty, I bought one for myself. At the moment I write this, there’s one more penny wreath wall hanging at Sonia’s Etsy shop. She also has lots of mini-quilts and more, at very reasonable prices.

The Knit & Crochet Show

“But wait,” you may be saying, “How can I get hold of some hand-made polymer clay buttons?”

You can make some! In fact, there’ still time to sign up for my polymer clay button workshops at The Knit & Crochet Show next month in Reno, Nevada. For more information, please visit this site:

Polymer Clay Button Cloth

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Suzann’s polymer clay button cloth

Polymer clay buttons are so much fun to make! They’re colorful and pretty. They’re machine-washable and dryable. Button-lover that I am, I have enjoyed making these little beauties since the 1980s. The buttons started accumulating. How could I display all those buttons? A button cloth!

Suzann’s polymer clay button cloth, up close

Since there were so many colors of buttons, I needed a colorful button cloth. Borrowing a color-meandering technique from quilter Jinny Beyer, I arranged the hues of the rainbow in different shades and tints.

Suzann’s polymer clay button cloth, up close

Using the wonderful Ultimate Sweater Machine and yarns from my collection, I knitted blocks of color, alternating with cream and white, and with black and gray at the beginning and end of each strip. I used the join-as-you-knit method to add new strips of color blocks.

After blocking the knitting, I added quilt batting and fabric backing. Then I quilted it and added binding all around.

Suzann’s polymer clay button cloth

Now to sew buttons onto the cloth! It took a long time to work through my backlog of buttons. After that, whenever I made a new button style or color-way, I sewed a sample onto the cloth right away.

It’s such a fun piece to show. I always take it to my button workshops. People are surprised to learn that all the colors are the colors of the clay—no paint!

Crafty Nautical Flags

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

nautical flag trinket box in Polymer Clay for Everyone

Nautical flags are happy and colorful, and I just love them. But not only that, they actually spell stuff! I mean that each flag represents a letter of the alphabet.

In Polymer Clay for Everyone (my first book—oh yes, I love polymer clay, too), nautical flags decorate the top of a marine trinket box (pages 70-71). And guess what!? They spell T-R-I-N-K-E-T-S.

nautical flags spell E-A-T at Long John Silver’s

Next time you are near a Long John Silver’s restaurant, look for nautical flags that spell:


Imagine that. “Eat” is on the tall sign, and “here” is split in half on the long sign across the front of the building.

nautical flags spell H-E-R-E at Long John Silver’s

nautical flags spell D-U-C-K at Disney World

When Eva and I were at Disney World with her schoolmates several years ago, we saw this float in a parade. It spells D-U-C-K. (The K is hidden in shadow at the bottom left-hand corner.) Whose float could that have been?

Someday I’m going to knit nautical flags into an afghan. Shouldn’t be too difficult. Garter stitch, I think. Then it will be up to you to unravel the hidden meaning.

P. S. The flags at the Krusty Krab restaurant in SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons don’t spell anything. They’re made up versions of nautical flags. Yay! It fits in with the theme of being able to have a campfire underwater!

More Buttons at the Knit & Crochet Show

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Early Friday morning I made my way to the button classroom to finish baking buttons we made the day before. As the start of class came closer, familiar faces and new faces greeted me for Polymer Clay Button Boutique 2.

hard at work making polymer clay buttons

At nine o’clock, Jane, Susan, Mary, Diane, Mira, Rae, Ingrid, Charles, Joyce, Willett, June, Barb, Mary, Judy, and Camilla got busy mixing colors for faux turquoise buttons. We grated clay, applied paint to the grated shreds, cut, twisted, and squished the clay. We worked hard all day. The piles of buttons grew and grew. There was lots of talking and laughing.

Judy and Charles’s polymer clay buttons

By the end of the day, we finished the turquoise buttons, made twisty mica-shift buttons, flower millefiori buttons, and mosaic buttons. I had to take them back to my room to finish baking. Find lots more photos from our button classes here.

One of the great things about teaching is that I learn from the people in my classes. They try things I’ve never thought of, like this new way to do millefiori flower buttons by Judy and Charles.

Saturday afternoon’s button baking line-up

Buttons at the Knit & Crochet Show

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Carlotta’s polymer clay creations

The fall Knit & Crochet Show in Greensboro was SO MUCH FUN! If you’ve never been to a knitting and crochet convention, you should go at least once to experience the amazing feeling of being around so many fellow yarn lovers. It will make your day, your week, your year!

Mary’s polymer clay buttons

Thursday morning at nine, we started our Polymer Clay Button Boutique class by making fake lapis buttons, courtesy of Sue Heaser’s recipe. Her book, The Polymer Clay Techniques Book, is the best. I recommend it.

buttons waiting for their turn in the toaster oven

By the end of the day, we were exhausted but happy. Everyone had piles of buttons, and we had a backlog next to the oven, waiting to be baked. Next time I’m bringing two toaster ovens.

Many, many of the buttons we made in class are on Flickr. I hope you’ll go and see them. They’re gorgeous!

Polymer Clay Button Class in Greensboro, North Carolina

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

group project polymer clay buttons

It’s going to be polymer clay paradise at the Knit & Crochet Show in Greensboro, NC, in September!

crazy polymer patchwork buttons

I’m teaching two six-hour classes of polymer clay button-making techniques:

In Polymer Clay Button Boutique 1, we’ll make colorful and easy swirl buttons, lapis-lazuli-like buttons. We’ll go into groups of two or three to work on an easy millefiori technique, resulting in buttons like the ones pictured above. (You’ll have a choice of several different shapes for your buttons.)

Ella’s polymer clay guy

After lunch we will make Crazy Polymer Patchwork Buttons like the ones in the photo above-right. We will end by making flower appliqué buttons.

Ella was about five years old when I made the buttons you see here. She used up my scraps to make this Polymer Clay Guy. Kids + Polymer Play = Creativity Squared!

To find out more about the Knit & Crochet Show in Greensboro, NC, September 23-25, 2011, visit, and look for details about the Fall Show You can register online.

I’ll post about Button Boutique 2 next week.

The Price for Handwork: Money for Time or Time for Time

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

“The Price for Handwork” is copyright 2011 by Suzann Thompson. You are welcome to print this essay and keep it somewhere that it will lend you moral support, or give it to people who ask you to make things for them.

“You like to crochet.  Will you make me an afghan?” says a co-worker.  “Can you make me a quilt to match the new paint in my bedroom?” asks a relative.

You may be one of those rare people, who makes things for others out of pure love for the craft or love for your fellow beings.  That is great. Your friends are lucky.

However, when someone asks you to make something and you feel the slightest hesitation at spending your valuable time making a project for someone else, you really must charge for your time.  Otherwise, you will come to resent the person you’re making it for, and the project will become like a millstone around your neck.

After long experience, I respectfully decline casual requests to “knit me a sweater.”  I say something like, “I prefer to work on my own projects.” In other words: “No.”  “No” is a perfectly acceptable answer. 


Money for Time

Your potential client is persistent.  She really wants that afghan.  “Pleeeeeeeeease? I’ll pay for the yarn,” she offers.

You’re tempted to do the project, but how do you charge for handwork?

The client pays for materials.

No matter what, your client should buy all materials and patterns.  If necessary, give her advice about the quality of materials or where she can find the best prices.

You should charge by the hour for your labor, preferably at least minimum wage, which in the U. S. in 2011 is $7.25 per hour.  If you are highly-skilled and quick, you should charge more

I sense crafters thinking, “People won’t pay that kind of money for handwork.”  Maybe not, but do you really want to work for someone who thinks your time is worth less than the minimum legal wage paid in United States? 

For reasons of your own, you may decide to accept less than the minimum hourly wage.  That’s up to you.

Charge for the time it takes to make gauge swatches.

Whatever wage you settle on for yourself, you must estimate how long it will take you to make a certain project.  Remember to include swatching and finishing.

You tell your co-worker, “The afghan you want me to crochet will probably take me no more than 30 hours.  So 30 hours times my rate of $8 per hour will come to as much as $240.00 for the labor.  That’s in addition to the price of the yarn.”

Whoa, your co-worker thinks.  “I can get a really pretty afghan at Pottery Barn for less than that!” she says.

“You sure can,” you say, very kindly, as you smile and look your co-worker in the eye.  That’s all you have to say. You don’t have to defend your position.  After all she’s the one who’s asking.

Money for Time =

Your hourly wage × Estimated hours needed to complete the project

Client buys supplies and pattern.


Time for Time

Let’s pretend your potential client truly doesn’t realize the amount of time that goes into handwork. 

Finishing takes time. Include it in your charges.

When you tell him the cost of your time and how many hours you will be working on the project, he says, “Oh. I didn’t realize it took that long.  I can’t afford that kind of money.”

“We may be able to work something out,” you say, “but you’ll still have to buy the materials and the pattern.”

He brightens up.

You say, “How about trading time for time?”

Intrigued, your client says, “What do you mean?”

“Well,” you say, “when I’m crocheting, my yard work doesn’t get done.  Could we get together on the weekend, and I’ll crochet while you mow and rake my lawn?”

“You wouldn’t want me to do that,” he says.  “Lawnmowers have a habit of breaking whenever I’m around.”

“How about cleaning out my garage?” you say.  “Or running errands for me?  Do you have any ideas about how we could trade time for time?”

Your client may be glad to work in your yard or do 25 hours’ worth of cooking for you. Or he might have some other skill you would be glad to trade for, like house-painting or sewing or editing or installing bathroom tile. (Naturally, you should buy house-paint, fabric and patterns, or bathroom tile and supplies.)

The important thing is that the trade is exactly time for time.  If possible, the two of you should work at the same time, so your client sees what actually goes into the project.  Your duty is to work well and efficiently. Your client should do the same for you. Whatever you decide, write it down and make copies for yourself and your client.

Time for Time =

The hours you put into the project = The hours the client works for you

Client buys supplies and pattern.  You buy whatever supplies the client needs to complete the agreed-upon job for you.


You will run across people who insist that you should work cheap or free.  Their reasoning? “You LIKE to crochet!” (Or quilt or make stained-glass panels or whatever your craft is.)

You say with a smile, “Yes, I do.  So you can pay my hourly rate, or we can work for each other.  Which to you prefer?” 

While they’re thinking this over, remember:  however you decide to say it, you can always say… “No.”

Enjoy working together!